Belfast Telegraph

My son promised to turn his life around on night of fatal overdose, says father of Matthew McKee

At an inquest in Belfast yesterday, the court heard Mr McKee had taken a deadly cocktail of cocaine and several prescription drugs (stock photo)
At an inquest in Belfast yesterday, the court heard Mr McKee had taken a deadly cocktail of cocaine and several prescription drugs (stock photo)
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A Belfast father has spoken of the heartbreaking final text sent from his son on the night he died of a drug overdose.

Matthew James McKee was 25 when he died in a friend's flat off the Dublin Road on July 27 last year.

He had spent the day drinking in bars with friends who tried to resuscitate him when they found him unresponsive on a sofa the following morning.

At an inquest in Belfast on Monday, the court heard Mr McKee had taken a deadly cocktail of cocaine and several prescription drugs - pregabalin, morphine, fentanyl, alprazolam, diazepam and gabapentin.

In and out of prison from the age of 16, often for stealing offences, Mr McKee had a long history of abusing prescription medication which became worse after he was shot in the legs in 2013.

His father, Brendan McWilliams, told the court in a statement that his son messaged him just before he died with a promise to turn his life around.

"Sorry daddy I'm going to get help. My life is f****d up," he wrote, followed by "love you daddy, all my heart".

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Within hours his son's friends called to break the news of his death.

Mr McKee was released from prison six weeks before his death and was hospitalised shortly afterwards when he took alprazolam (also known as Xanax).

Mr McWilliams took a picture of his son lying unconscious in his hospital bed, hoping it would shock him into getting help.

"It was like 15 minutes of fame to him," Mr McWilliams said in his statement.

"He said to my partner, 'Did you see my photo'?"

He added that taking Xanax for the first time had scared him "but not enough".

Mr McKee's mother, Arlene McKee, also attended Monday's inquest and said in her statement that her son had "been on drugs for years", starting with cannabis.

Despite his addictions, she described his personality as "happy, singing, got on with everyone" and that he had enjoyed boxing.

The day before his death, she said he had come back to the family home near the Crumlin Road to get washed.

He had bruises on his head which he said were the result of a fight with his cousin, but a post-mortem examination found this did not contribute to his death.

"I don't believe it was intentional. He was addicted to taking tablets," she said.

Further witness statements were heard from the two friends with Mr McKee that night, Christopher Harman and Perry McAtamney.

Mr Harman said he didn't know the full extent of what Mr McKee had taken. "I got my own drugs, I don't know where Matthew got his," he said.

In her findings, coroner Suzanne Anderson passed on her sympathies to the family and said she was satisfied there was no evidence Mr McKee intended to take his own life, recording the cause of death as an accidental overdose.

She said that coroners now see the "grave risks" of mixing drugs all too often.

A post-mortem examination from the state pathologist, Dr James Lynas, said in the absence of natural disease or significant injury, it was "reasonable to conclude" death was caused by the toxic effects of multiple drugs.

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